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What's it like to be an author?

February 26, 2014
Posted at 1:06 am

Sometimes people write to me and ask, "What's it like to be an author?"

Here's an example.

There was a contest a while back, which involved submitting a flash story.

So I wrote one called "After School Job". It was about a girl who asks her dad if she can get an after school job modeling clothes. He says she can if her brother goes along to chaperone her. Those of you who are actually reading this probably know me, so you can imagine the rest.

The problem is, that when I finished it, the story was 4,000 words long. And the contest said a thousand words max. And I had already cut it down to barer bones than I could even imagine.

This means I ended up with a story that was slashed to the minimum, and it wasn't good for anything.

So I thought to myself, "Self? Why not expand this little puppy. You're good at doing that."

And that's what I did. I stayed with the original concept and expanded it a lot. But it took a weird turn in there somewhere and by the time I got to chapter six or seven, I didn't like it very much any more. It was a good idea ... but it went south in the making.

It got sent to the back burner, where it sat while I did something else. That, I believe, was Mamma Mia. And another one I can't tell you about right now, because Peaches is looking at it to see if it grabs her. If she wants to edit it, it will be a while and I don't want to get your hopes up.

But I kept thinking that the idea for After School Job was really good. So I went back and basically started all over. I told it from a different character's point of view, and it developed differently. It has taken a long time, but as I told Michelle earlier tonight, I'm within a gnat's whisker of finishing it.

Then, of course, I have to go back through it to make sure everything makes sense. Mondays and Thursdays are important in this story, so I have to map them all out so I don't do two Thursdays in a row because that wouldn't work at all. I also have to check every name against the character list, so that I don't call Mary Joanne, or mix up Rhonda, the mother, with Renee, her daughter. Ever wonder why all the guys are named Bob? I don't have to check that name. Cuts the time it takes me to do my first edit almost in half.

And here you probably thought it was all about my ego. {grin}

Then it will get spell checked.

Then Michelle will get it to proof.

Then Andy will get it to edit.

Once I get it back, I have to examine all the edits he made and decide whether to accept them as he did them, or reject them, or do something else.

Then it's ready to break down into chapters. It will be seven or eight, most likely, but chapters need to be roughly the same length or the readers get all bollixed up in their expectations.

Not to mention that each chapter should end with a cliffhanger. You know me, as I said.

Then comes the transformation from normal text to html code. I do that by chapter, which means the one long story (with chapters) has to be broken apart. If it's going to be a for sale book, then it has to be retained in it's whole form too, because that's how a book is submitted. One format to Amazon, and a totally different one to Smashwords.

This is important because any corrections or problems you, the reader sees, must be made in the individual chapter plus the whole book copy.

But this next one will be a free one, so it can be in single chapter form. I'll still keep it in whole book form too, but that's because I'm OCD about these things, and not because it's necessary.

Okay. Now we're to the part you like, where the chapter file is in html format, and ready to upload to SOL. Let's say it turns out to be ten chapters. That makes it easy to post two chapters a day for five days and get the thing up in a week.

Why, you ask, do I torture you like that, taking a week to post a story that is complete?

Doing it that way keeps it on the update page for the whole week, so that if you miss it on the new story page, when it starts, you see it later and can catch up. If I posted the entire story on one day, it would stay on the new story page for half a day and get pushed to page two, and half of you wouldn't even know it was there.

But part of posting a story like I do is making sure that, at the end of what is posted each day, the chapter ends in such a way as to demand (hopefully) that you come back tomorrow to keep reading.

That's the purpose of the cliffhanger, by the way. I don't do it to torture you. I do it to make you come back. So that's why you may get one chapter one day and three the next. It all depends on what I decide to end the day with.

That said, however, there is still the final edit. That's the one I do just before I post a chapter. I read it one last time, tweaking it, changing words, making phrases clearer, ensuring that anything that causes me to pause while reading, is fixed so it doesn't cause you to pause while reading.

Then it is up at 0700 or so, to upload the chapter, so that it gets to SOL early enough to be posted in the morning.

If it sounds exhausting ... well ... sometimes it is.

But that's what it's like to be an author.

Thanks for reading,